How to Support New Foster Parents
I can’t believe it’s been five years since I wrote this blog post! I receive more messages about this post than any other post I’ve ever written. With over 108,000 views on our LiveLoveFoster blog and 3K+ pins on Pinterest, this post still lives on, even though our years of fostering have passed.
I receive messages from women all the time about how this blog has and continues to bless them. It blows my mind every time I read one of their emails. I’ve had women express how they were inspired to become foster parents (particularly for older children) because of what they saw in our journey. All I can say is that the Father receives all of the glory! He called us to fostering and He carried us through each day.
I am re-sharing this post today in hopes that it blesses at least one family out there. We shared the information below on handouts at our second “Foster Shower” in January of 2014. Our family members and friends expressed how helpful the document was and how they had a better understanding of how to support us moving forward.
Please feel free to share with the foster parents you know or anyone who may be considering fostering in the future. You have our full permission to steal anything that’s useful in the handout. And if it blesses you, will you let me know?
Thanking Jesus in advance over here,
AN OPEN LETTER TO OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY ABOUT OUR FUTURE FOSTER KIDS
written january 5, 2014
General Information About Foster Care
We are requesting ages 4-9, either gender, any race
We have one more step in the licensing process: the home study, which is a 4-6 hour, in-home interview.
We are hoping to be fully licensed by mid-February and could receive a placement any time after that.
Our agency only allows us to give the child new clothing so they don't feel like second hand children, so we can't accept clothing hand-me-downs.
Once we find out the gender/age of a placement, we would love donations of toys, hobbies, supplies, games, or sports equipment.
The average placement lasts about a year, but it could be any amount of time from 1 day to several years.
A child could be placed into foster care for a variety of reasons, but the most common reasons are: medical or food neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.
The state’s goal of foster care is for reunification between the child and biological parent. If the parent keeps falling through with their court-ordered action plan, then parental rights might be terminated (usually after about a year of non-compliance).
The state’s goal of foster care is also for the child to live with kin versus an unrelated foster parent.
It is illegal for a foster child to be spanked or physically punished in any way.
Anticipate the Foster Child To
Spend time grieving for the loss of their parents, siblings, school, toys, and pets.
Likely be devastated when first placed in our home (even though we will be elated at our chance to help the child).
Be very well behaved but become more transparent when the "honeymoon period" expires.
Act out (shouting, screaming, or bad language). Why? It's often due to trauma recovery or reactive attachment disorder (not because they need a “good spanking”).
Hoard/hide food or toys (possibly steal food or toys) due to past trauma or lack of having enough food.
Be anxious about being in the restroom due to past trauma.
Not be very verbal due to being developmentally behind.
Possibly be vastly more mature or more immature than other kids their age (depending on the type and level of neglect/abuse they may have experienced.)
Possibly look and act just like any other child! :)
Anticipate Us (as Parents) To
Appear extremely overprotective with the foster child. Why? Many foster children need a stronger sense of stranger danger, and we also have a much higher legal obligation to be more protective.
Need a lot of emotional support when the child goes back to the biological parents.
Be very vague and private about the child's past and current therapy progress (due to privacy laws). We cannot share any private information about the child unless it's something you'd need to know to keep the child safe - this is a legal requirement, like HIPAA for doctors or FERPA for teachers.
Not be able to make plans for any vacations or nights out. We are not allowed to leave the child (even for a short amount of time with a babysitter) for the first 40 days they're with us. Higher standards for foster care babysitting include federal/state background checks, medication training, CPR and first aid, and a foster child babysitter must be at least 21years old, etc.
Need your emotional support, prayers, and words of encouragement, as this will be a very hard transition for us, but even harder for the child.
Not share pictures of the child's face online due to privacy laws (unless an adoption is finalized).
Ways You Can Help Us
Pray for us, the child, and the biological parents!
Pray for God's will (not our own desires) regarding timeline, child placement, and our role in the child’s life.
Offer to make meals for us during a placement.
Know that parenting a foster child (much less an older, abused foster child) is drastically different than parenting that was likely required for your child. Think about how your life was completely changed when you had 9 months to plan for a baby and several more months before they started walking.
Understand when we decline an offer for you to watch them for a few minutes (we have legal requirements for any short or long term babysitting). However, we would love for you to become a foster-qualified babysitter! If you want more information, please let us know; we hope to put a link in our blog to our foster agency that has more information about this.
Ask the child about their interests and list of favorites but not questions about their past. As the
foster parents, we have also been asked to not probe into their past because this should be done each week with their therapist.
If you have your own children, please strongly consider the following before sharing that our special visitor is a foster child: your child’s maturity level, ability to keep private information confidential, and your willingness to educate your child about the implications of misspoken words toward a foster child. We understand that children are curious; please see the link below for advice regarding this.
If you see the child misbehaving, and we don't see it, please do not reprimand or punish the child in our absence. Because we can't share the child's specific history of abuse, current therapy recommendations, or social/behavioral action plan goals, it is important for us to know what happened but be the one to deliver the consequence. We really want to know from you if you see misbehavior (or really great behavior) because we need your help in knowing where our child needs support or praise. Let us know because every choice the child makes is an opportunity for us to connect with the child and build trust or lose their trust, and we don't want to compromise it due to a different parenting style.
Ways Well-Intended People Actually Harm a Foster Child’s Progress
Ask the child about their past.
Say anything bad about the biological parents (either in front of the child OR in the absence of the child).
Ask the child about future adoption plans or give false expectations about being with us long term. These are out of our hands, and even if an adoption looks nearly final, there is still a good chance it will fall through if the state finds a distant relative before the official adoption date.
Pick up or carry the child or offer them treats without privately checking with us first.
Say things like "You're so lucky to be with your new family." It is natural for foster children to grieve the loss of their biological family, even if there was good reason the child was removed from the home. Statements like this can make the child feel guilty about feeling sad or resentful that others do not understand how hard the transition is for them.
For another foster parent's perspective on what she wishes other people knew about foster children and foster parenting, visit this website:
For advice from another foster parent in educating or talking with your own children about adoption, visit this website: